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The Bulgarian Secret Service - A Reign of Terror and Subterfuge

by Alexenia Dimitrova for The Reactionary


How the Bulgarian Secret Services planted defectors in West and spied on Bulgaria's King.


On 9th November 1960, the South-Eastern European department of the US Army sent a report to its Central European office in Germany, informing them of an operation that had been launched by Battalion 163. The operation, according to the report, was provoked and motivated by observations made over the course of the previous few weeks by American military analysts in various refugee camps in Western Europe.

These observations had aroused suspicion that a percentage of East Europeans looking for political asylum in the West were in fact Bulgarian State Security plants.  Some of the Bulgarians interviewed in the refugees’ camps have told stories that were remarkably similar to one another. This led the Americans to conclusion that some sort of secret “spies implant” programme had been organised by Bulgarian intelligence. Later, the operation in Battalion 163 confirmed the suspicion and discovered at least 3 Bulgarian refugees allegedly involved with Bulgarian Secret Services.
 
I read the above facts in the American Secret Archives. In the last 10 years I have been regularly sending requests to various American institutions under the American Freedom of Information act (FOIA) asking for declassification of US documents related to Bulgaria from the Cold War Era. I obtained the above report after my FOIA request to an organisation called International and Security Command - INSCOM. I asked them to declassify a file called ZF400015W – Bulgaria Intelligence Services. The title was from a list published in Internet together with other file names. It took almost 2 years to get the requested file. The information about the Bulgarian Secret Services’ plants to the West was only a small part of it.

The first observed suspicious refugee was a man who had worked as an electrical engineer for the State Electrical Company in Sofia. He had been sent on business to Leipzig, Germany and defected from there.

The second suspicious candidate was a Bulgarian doctor, who had been sent to Friedrichstein, Germany in March 1953 to act as an assistant in a local urology clinic. The questions about his possible State Security role were first aroused by the revelation that he was a personal friend of the Bulgarian Ambassador to East Germany, and had other contacts in diplomatic and government circles. The doctor was supposed to return to Bulgaria in April 1960, but chose to go instead to the King refugee camp, claiming that he did not want to go back to a life under communist control. Later, he was appointed to the American military hospital in Frankfurt. But on October 24th, 1960 the hospital’s secret intelligence section received information that the doctor was preparing to leave for Bulgaria in 2 days time, supposedly to visit his mother, who had suddenly fallen ill.

The third of the suspicious refugees was a graduate of a Technical College in Central Bulgaria specialized in electronics. He had been sent to East Berlin to work as a telephone technician in the official East German Radio, Telephone and Telegraph Agency, but on April  25th, 1960 he escaped to West Berlin. Asked for his reasons, he cited his ideological opposition to the communist regime, and insisted that he did not want to return to a life under the strict control of the Bulgarian communist authorities. He passed through King camp, and began working for an electrical company in Frankfurt.

Describing the 3 cases the author of the report drew attention to certain similarities in the stories, pointing out six elements they all had in common:
-    All 3 Bulgarians had been sent to work in East Germany.
-    All of them gave the same reason for wanting political asylum: opposition to the communist regime.
-    All three refused categorically to return to Bulgaria.
-    They were all well educated and had good professional skills, as well as a number of suspicious Bulgarian contacts (the agent indicated that this alone was reason enough to monitor their activities).
-    They had all immediately offered to collaborate with US secret services by giving them the names of prospective sources.
-    After defecting, each of them had established secret contact with other Bulgarians, and began making plans to return to Bulgaria.

In addition to these three cases, there was a Bulgarian journalist who had attracted the attention of American analysts. He had traveled legally to West Germany, but had decided not to go back to Bulgaria. Through a Bulgarian friend, he had contacted Radio Free Europe in Munich and - declaring his pro-West sympathies - offered his services. Later he applied for work at the Voice of America radio station, also based in Munich, but was turned down. In the meantime, he had been sent to the refugee center in Berchtesgarten for investigation, and was eventually classified as being of possible interest to Battalion 163, because he was discovered to have alleged contacts inside the State Security Services.

The author of the report concluded that the Bulgarian secret services’ aim in sending these moles abroad was to find out about the Western’ working methods and documentation, as well as whatever other information they came across.

Declassified files in the Bulgarian secret service archives confirmed that US suspicions about the planting of communist agents abroad were not far from the truth. Two years before Battalion 163 launched its operation, the Bulgarian Politburo had issued a decree marked “Top Secret of Special Importance” on 18th September 1958, proposing to organize an intelligence network of Bulgarians living abroad and for it to be co-ordinated by “reliable and trustworthy army officers and civilians”.

A set of instructions was drawn up and sent to the so-called “route agency”, whose job was to establish contact with agents sent to other countries and carry out various reconnaissance missions. These new instructions informed them that they were to begin recruiting businessmen on trips abroad, journalists from the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency, scientists, writers, and those working in the fields of economics and sports. Some of these newly created secret agents had to be given forged passports. Many were instructed to use the places where they lived abroad as safe houses for meetings, and secret letterboxes for exchanging information.

The plan was further developed in July 1963, when the Politburo introduced a new set of basic directives for the intelligence services. They wanted to recruit reliable agents, who were to be sent to the other side of the Iron Curtain, posing as genuine emigrants, to investigate connections between those defecting from Bulgaria and Western intelligence. Agents were also to be planted in other enemy targets abroad. “Those recruited for these roles are to travel abroad by both legal and illegal routes,” ordered the directive, confirming that the suspicions of Western agents had not been unfounded. The American files made it clear that only a few months later, these plans began to be implemented.

Among the documents declassified by INSCOM, I found a list of 539 Bulgarians living abroad, (mostly in Vienna) who were suspected of having links with either the Bulgarian or the Russian secret services. On December 7th, 1956 a Bulgarian defector in one of the refugee camps near Munich revealed that he knew of many connections between his fellow Bulgarians in Vienna with the Bulgarian Secret Services. There are piles of documents confirming that Austria and West Germany were the places where most of the mutual spying took place.

The most usual “plants” of the Bulgarian State Security to the West worked undercover as ordinary travellers. The documents mentioned a Bulgarian sent to Hamburg, who was asked to establish contacts with as many Germans as he could, collecting information about their lifestyles and political views. Before being sent on his mission, the agent was informed by his supervisor that he would not be alone in West Germany. He was told not to break any German laws, not to get into any political arguments, and not to have contact with any other Bulgarians. His supervisor then put some of his fears to rest, assuring him that he would not have to involve himself in any acts of sabotage or violence: there were other agents specially trained for this. Finally, he was told how to keep himself safe from the German secret services, and warned that should he fall into their hands, he would be tortured.

Other plants were the truck drivers and people from art circles. Among them was a very famous Bulgarian pop singer. The name had been diligently blacked out, but many features revealed her true personality. According to the documents she and her husband toured the Eastern Block countries, mainly Romania, where they spent a lot of time in 1955-6, and later between 1961 and 1963. In 1962-3, they also played in Poland, East Germany and West Berlin, return periodically to Bulgaria, in order to settle their visa applications and arrange their next run of concerts. In August 1963, they embarked on a long tour of West Germany, not returning until 1964. They would sometimes employ a German guitarist and another singer - a Bulgarian woman who was married to a German. Their tours to the West were usually arranged by the State Concert Administration.

According to a Western Intelligence informer's observations of the Bulgarian singer, he had myriad contacts among high-level employees of the various Bulgarian Ministries - mostly in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security Services. These contacts accrued him permission to visit the West as many times as he wanted - a privilege most people could only dream of under communism. The informer said that when he himself had travelled to East Berlin, many people there - particularly other musicians - had expressed suspicions that the couple was working for the Bulgarian secret services. He put it this way: “You cannot travel unimpeded abroad, and play so many concerts in other countries, without having to pay something back.”

The informer also revealed that the husband and wife had been allowed free access to West Berlin, where they had dealt very profitably in German marks. They also bought the latest Mercedes 220F there - something for which they were investigated by the East Berlin police. The case was mysteriously dropped not long after it began. The informer suspected that the singer had pulled some strings, and that pressure had been exerted from above. The informer reported that his suspicions were further aroused by a rumour circulated in Sofia, that before the pop star had started singing in bars and nightclubs, the woman had served a prison sentence for prostitution. This led to speculation that working for the secret services had been a condition of her early release from jail.

Unfortunately, the declassified American documents only ran up to 1966, and gave me no more information about the singer, or any other suspected State Security contacts, beyond that year. There were, however, files in the Bulgarian Secret Service archives, which could bring me, further up to date.  A set of top secret orders issued by the Minister for Internal Affairs in 1977 showed that a number of agents had been selected, trained, and sent abroad to work “against enemy emigration” on placements lasting longer than 6 months. Earlier, in July 1973, the Politburo had issued secret resolution B-8, recommending that a year spent on undercover operations in Turkey, Greece, the USA, West Germany or China should count as 2 years’ service.
   
Initially, there were only a few people who guessed the identities of Bulgarian Secret Service moles. But in 1998, after many years’ surveillance, the American Defense Ministry put together a report expressing their suspicions that “a considerable proportion of the 84 or so Bulgarian officials working in New York and the Bulgarian Embassy in Washington are thought to have had ties to the Bulgarian secret services.” It went on to claim that Bulgarian State Security depended on about 1,000 other temporary visitors each year to bring them further information, claiming that the main objectives were “technologies blocked by the trade embargo”. This clearly demonstrates that no ordinary Bulgarian citizen would ever be able to travel internationally without informing the Bulgarian Security Services on his activities, contacts and observations in the enemy’s camp upon return.

How the Bulgarian Secret Services Spied on King Simeon

The Bulgarian Secret Services spied on Bulgarian King Simeon from the moment he went into exile in 1946, until at least 1968. I found irrefutable proof of this in the Secret State Security Archive in the Ministry of the Interior in Bulgaria. I have the dubious honor of being the only journalist who has ever read this file, because a few years later a law was passed preventing access to someone’s file without their personal written permission.
   
The first report dealing with the King and his family dated from November 7th, 1946. It was made by agent Nikolay Zadgorsky, who together with General Marholev, formed the government delegation that accompanied the royal family on their trip to Egypt in 1946. Here is the actual report (sic):

“To the Director of the Department of State Security,

Here is the report of Nikolay Zadgorsky, designated to accompany the former royal family on their trip to Alexandria.

The seeing-off.

The scene of the royal family’s seeing-off was attended only by Professor Venelin Ganev (lawyer, member of the Regent Counsel from 1944 to 1946) together with the academics Todor Pavlov and Tsviatko Boboshevsky, who became tearful as he was saying goodbye to the Queen, and Altanov from the Ministry of the Exterior (Ivan G. Altanov, professor of law, member of the Bulgarian Science Academy, director of the political department in the Ministry of the Exterior and the Department of Ecclesiastical Affairs, Chief Secretary in the Ministry to the academic Petko Stainov, 1944-6).
   
Apart from the court servants who loaded the luggage and the men from the National Police, no one else attended the departure or made any attempt to see the royal family off. At the stations where the special train stopped, there was no one to say goodbye to them, except those who were there by chance, even though the railway authorities at each station had been given prior warning that the train carrying the royal family would be passing through.
   
Their departure from Bulgaria passed without any emotional scenes, except for when Eudokia (King Boris’ sister) said she regretted we had not just killed her after 9th September, so she would not have had to endure the misery of leaving her homeland.

As we journeyed through Greek territory, we were guarded by somewhat aggressive Greek policemen, armed with sub-machine guns. Most of them spoke Bulgarian, and asked questions about the Russian troops in Bulgaria, the aerodrome at Jambol, and so on.

In Odrin, Turkey, a carriage of 18 men in police uniform was coupled onto the royal train. The director of the Odrin police station came into our compartment, accompanied by two civil policemen, one of them a Turk from Shumen. They stayed with us all the way to Tzarigrad, displayed complete correctness in their behaviour towards us, and worked vigilantly to ensure the security of the train every time it stopped at a station.
   
We arrived at Tzarigrad two hours behind schedule. After leaving Plovdiv, we had been coupled to a damaged locomotive, which we were forced to exchange. This caused us to arrive at the Bulgarian-Turkish border one hour late. Ivanov, Chief Inspector of the Railways, who was accompanying the train as far as Svilengrad, agreed to take responsibility for this delay. We experienced a second one-hour delay in Turkey.
   
At Tzarigrad station, in addition to our official representatives, we were greeted by Antonov (former ambassador in Ankara) and a huge crowd of journalists. Antonov managed to force his way through as far as the Queen’s carriage, but he was pushed away before he had a chance to speak to her. The moment the royal family set foot on the platform, they were besieged by journalists wanting statements and photographs. The Turkish policemen at the scene refused to co-operate in trying to force a way through to the exit for the royal family, under the pretext that they supported the “freedom of the press.” Hundreds of photographs were taken, but no one succeeded in interviewing the Queen or young Simeon.

Our consul in Tzarigrad had called for taxis, which transported us from the station to the port. Then, by the steamer, we were once again attacked by journalists. The Turkish police not only did nothing to protect the royal family, but even assisted the journalists. I should point out that if the Queen had wanted to speak to them, she would have done so here; but she categorically refused. The journalists’ attempts to speak to young Simeon also ended in frustration.

Once the luggage had been loaded onto the “Axur”, the steamer that had been waiting for us for two hours, she got under way immediately. The captain gave up his cabin for the use of the royal family, which made our task of shepherding them and keeping them isolated much easier. On the steamer, a Turkish policeman introduced himself to me as Mehmed Bey, from Burgas (where his brother still lives and is head of the State Security department, I later found out). He is head of Bulgarian Intelligence in Turkey, and had orders to guard the royal family. He was assisted in this by another Bulgarian Turk, Ruffik Bey, a commissioner in Tzarigrad’s uniformed police force. They worked in shifts outside the royal family’s cabin, but kept an even closer eye on the three of us who made up the government delegation. In Izmir, we were not allowed to go off alone, and at other Turkish ports, they took on extra local agents to make sure they didn’t lose sight of us.
   
Between Tzarigrad and Izmir, four Turkish journalists traveled on board, correspondents from Turkish and U.S. papers, who had been instructed by their editors to interview the Queen and young Simeon. Despite spending 40 hours on the steamer, they did not manage to get near their targets. To do so would have required more than a little toughness. Nevertheless, these four journalists handed in their reports to the Turkish newspapers Wagon, Jumhurried and Sanpost. The reports were not serious, tending to emphasize the fact that, even abroad, the Queen was not free to speak openly, and describing all those who worked on the boat as very nice people, and those from the government as rude and vicious. I assume that the story published about the lady-in-waiting with the puppy, Beba Chomakova, was true (Elena Petrova Chomakova, lady-in-waiting, companion to Queen Giovanna since 1930; exiled from the court, along with her sister Maria, following a diplomatic scandal, on 11th March 1941; left Bulgaria) Analysts assumed she must have joined the royal party on their way to Egypt, once they were outside Bulgarian territory, and had reportedly been heard to say in their presence: “If the referendum had been democratic, none of this would be happening.” She did not deny this to us.
   
At the ports of Izmir, Antalya, Mersin, Larnaca in Cyprus, Beirut, and in Syria, representatives from the local authorities paid visits to the Queen on the steamer, and afterwards took us on tours around the cities and their outskirts by motorcar. Mehmed Bey always accompanied us on these excursions, with the exception of Beirut, when the Queen went ashore without our knowledge. In Hefa, we advised the Queen not to go ashore, because of the frequent violent attacks and shootings, and she did not.
   
In Beirut, where the Queen had holidayed in the past, an Egyptian princess came aboard with an entourage of around 60 people. In all, there were two visits from royalty during the journey to Egypt. At dinner, the Queen would usually have Evdokia as a guest at her table in the communal dining room, and from time to time, she would invite one or two of her ladies-in-waiting to join her, or some of us from the government delegation.
   
In Port Said, Evdokia parted from us and boarded an English steamer, bound for Naples. Our steamer was delayed for 2 days, even though it was only 7-8 hours journey to Alexandria. During this time, the Queen received a visit from her sister Olanda, who brought unhappy news that life in Egypt was very hard: her father was not giving her any financial support, and she had to cook and do her own laundry. This revelation caused a great commotion in the royal cabin, and everyone started discussing what jobs they could imagine themselves doing. The Chomakovs announced that they would be prepared to teach English. The Malchevs declared they did not intend to stay for more than 2-3 years, at which point the Queen took her case from Elena and give it to Malchev (Captain Boris Malchev, appointed to the Military Office and King Boris’ court in the late thirties. According to Panaiot Panaiotov, “he has a made a profound impression on the King’s thinking”).
   
During the entire course of the journey, the rest of the royal party (i.e. the servants) were given no money at all, and they had to get their hair cut on credit in the barber’s shop aboard the steamer. When we had reached the port of Alexandria, even before the steamer had anchored, an elegant motorboat took the former royal family, accompanied only by Malchev, straight to the King of Egypt’s summer residence, where they were greeted by the King and Victor Emanuel. After a ceremonial reception by the Egyptian princess, we also disembarked, along with the remainder of the royal party. The whole of the second floor of Alexandria’s biggest hotel, The Mediterranean, had been reserved for the royal family and their entourage.
   
We had arrived in Alexandria on 29th September 1946. The next day, the three of us who formed the government delegation, led by General Marholev, visited the Governor of Alexandria to express the gratitude of the Government of the Bulgarian Republic towards the Egyptian Government for the hospitality they had shown the former Bulgarian royal family. After passing on these sentiments, and having been given his assurance that every care would be taken to look after the royal family, our conversation moved to politics. On our way into the Governor’s residence, as on our way out, the sentries were lined up, standing to attention in our honour. That was the final stage of our official assignment. The next steamer to Tzarigrad was not due to leave until 8th October. We spent the time between 1st and 8th October in Alexandria and Cairo.

The Queen had tried the hardest to be on good terms with us (the members of the government delegation), and had adapted her behaviour to gain our approval. Most of our conversations with her covered areas such as the history of the royal dynasties, languages, and nature; she avoided politics, a field of which she seemed to us quite ignorant, and which might have made her say something we would not approve of. However, she did describe herself as the “red one in the family”, telling us she was on record as a communist in the files of the fascist Italian police, and that she liked a lot of our ideas, but thought it unwise to rush into things (she was referring to the declaring of the Republic). She told us her grandfather, the Chernogorian King, used to say: “A politician who rushes is a bad politician.” She was also keen to show her dislike of the Germans: “I can speak their language, but the Germans killed my sister.”

She once asked me, “Are you satisfied with my behaviour so far?” and continued, “I won’t say any more, as I don’t want you to twist my words.” Her reason for this seemed to be that she hoped one day to return to Bulgaria as Queen Mother. While we were saying our farewells, she said, “Goodbye, and please accept my best wishes for you and for Bulgaria. Remember me to Bogdanov (Stefan Bogdanov, then Chief of the State Security Services) and his children.”
   
Evdokia behaved consistently like someone who had done all she could to break away from the royal dynasty and escape her roots, joined to her family by blood, but nothing else, and now kicked out of her country “as a dirty dog.” On the steamer, she wore a simple grey dress, and a pair of old shoes she had deliberately put two holes in. She did not try and conceal her disagreements with the Queen. She used to say sarcastically, referring to Marholev and the other attendants: “After you’ve dealt with us, you’ll have to liquidate them as well.” She told us that Marholev had spent a long time trying to persuade her to reverse her original decision to stay in Bulgaria, arguing that the communists had insulted her. In the end, she said, she had left because her house had been seized. She was sure that Hitler had deliberately made Boris ill. “We suffer from weakness of character. We should have admitted the truth earlier, and fought together with you against those barbarians.”

In the early years, reports such as this one were rare. But ten years later, State Security had turned surveillance of the royal family into a much more serious activity. The young King, his mother Giovanna, his sister Maria Luisa and his aunt Evdokia came under the category of “former capitalists, fascist rulers, monarchs, and leaders of bourgeois parties”, which State Security was showing particular interest in at that time.

In February 1957, as part of a general offensive against “fascist elements”, the third bureau of the State Security Services carried out several top-secret investigations into “Giovanna Victor Emanuilova and Simeon Borisov Ferdinandov”. These revealed that the royal family had lived in Alexandria until 1953. Simeon attended an English school there, and graduated with excellent grades. He spoke five languages, and had studied Arabic. By the time of the report, he had obtained a masters degree in Switzerland, and was now settled in Madrid with his mother. In Alexandria, Giovanna and her two children had lived with the Chomakovy sisters, Elena and Maria, both former ladies-in-waiting, the aide-de-camp Boris Malchev and his family, and two other members of King Simeon’s entourage. The Queen was paying 7 pounds a month to all members of the exiled court, as well as giving them free meals. The Queen Mother was said to dress very modestly, influenced by the Englishmen who looked after the family. Of all the former royals, she attracted the least attention from Bulgarian agents.

According to the reports, “up until Easter 1949, the royal family’s behaviour was acceptable, and they had engaged in no hostile activity against the Republic of Bulgaria.” But their celebrating of Easter was seen as the “first public step” they had taken against the Republic. On that day, the former Queen invited all Bulgarians who had refused to register at the Republic’s embassy in Egypt to come to her home. Only a few families came to the reception, almost all of whom worked in the factory of the Bulgarian emigrant Asparuh Boiajiev, who had been declared a “traitor to his motherland.” As a direct result of this event, State Security resolved to initiate active monitoring of the former royal family. This decision was officially made on June 25th 1957, with the operation being code-named “Parasites”. They also launched a sub-operation, “Viper”, whose purpose was to spy on Evdokia, the sister of the late King Boris, and to “investigate the ex-royal family, and surround them with secret agents.”
   
Dozens of agents were placed close to the royal family, and instructed to report on everything they did. These agents were mostly posing as Bulgarian exiles, and some found positions among the royal servants. Supposed emigrants were sent specifically to listen in on the King’s conversations. All information was channelled back through agent “Nedialkov” from section 2 of the State Security Department, and agents “Buka” and “Ivanov” from section 4. All Simeon II’s meetings with compatriots abroad and all his radio broadcasts were recorded.

The Bulgarian Intelligence files claim that, as soon as the royal family had settled in Madrid, they began “demonstrating their negative attitude towards the People’s Republic of Bulgaria more openly.” According to Bulgarian agents, this was happening under the active influence of the British and American secret services. The royal family aimed to unite, under the flag of the monarchy, all the different groups of anti-communist Bulgarians that had sprung up in “the territories of imperialist states”, such as the Bulgarian National Committee in France.
   
Contained within King Simeon’s file was a list of 33 men who were in close contact with him and his family. The list contained some interesting names: the famous Bulgarian writer Elin Pelin, who had been a hunting partner of Simeon’s father, King Boris III; Stanislav, son of the distinguished Bulgarian linguist, Professor Alexander Balan; the trusty royal physician, Doctor Dragomir Alexandrov; the chief of the secret royal chancellery, Pavel Gruev; and the King’s most constant and reliable advisors, Iordan Sevov and Lubomir Lulchev. Special Operation No. 9 was designed to keep tabs on whether or not these people stayed in touch with King Simeon.
   
Agents reported that in February 1957, the King’s sister, Maria Luisa, married a German count of Russian ancestry, a descendant of the ex-King Alexander. Ilia Belinov, a former diplomat and “traitor”, attended the wedding. Most of the attention of Operation Parasites was focused on the young King Simeon. There were reports of strong disagreements within the court’s inner circle about how the King should be educated, as well as about how sympathetic emigrants should be contacted. This lead to serious disruption, with Kioseivanov, Stefanov, Dimanov and Popov fiercely opposed to the official court line, and only Uzunov and Stoyan Rejov remaining loyal.
   
One of the most detailed reports came from some time around June 16th, 1955, the day on which Simeon came of age and was crowned, at a solemn but modest ceremony in the royal family’s new home in Madrid. Amongst the hundred or so people who attended the low-key coronation, Secret Service agents identified several Bulgarians, including Stefan Gruev, Georgi Tsenkov and Ilia Belinov. Simeon II read out a manifesto for the Bulgarian people, which, according to the agents, was “full of hatred towards the People and the Republic of Bulgaria.” He then spoke about “forming a government abroad.” His New Year’s greeting for 1957 was also “full of hatred”, and he signed it “King of Bulgaria.”
   
Simeon’s records also contained detailed descriptions of his meetings with the Bulgarian emigrant army officer Ivan Dochev, and with his fellow countrymen in the Russian church in Brussels, to which he had promised financial help. The sources of these stories were agents at the head office of the Bulgarian National Front newspaper, Struggle, who reported that the publication was full of venom directed at the USSR and socialism generally, and contained accounts of events in Hungary, meetings of the Soviet KPSS and the Bulgarian Communist Party, and the deposition of Georgi Chankov and Dobry Terpeshev.
   
But more than anything else, the secret services were looking for signs that the King might try to return to Bulgaria. On the 3rd of January 1959, approximately 400 Bulgarians had gathered in the Bulgarian church in New York to celebrate the New Year. The former king, who at that time was studying - under the name of Simeon Rilski - at Pennsylvania State’s military academy,  "Valley Forge”, joined in their celebration. His entrance into the church was greeted with cheers and applause, patriotic songs and cries of “A free Bulgaria!” and he shook hands with “hundreds of Bulgarian men and women.”

He was greeted with kind words by Bishop Andrey, following which the King also took the opportunity to address the congregation: “It fills me with joy and excitement to begin this new year, 1959, with a group of Bulgarians,” he said, and finished his short speech with the words: “I hope it won’t be too long before we get to see in a new year beneath our beautiful, bright Bulgarian sky.”

The intelligence services had preserved records of all the King’s statements in which he had expressed his intention to return to his homeland, on “enemy radio stations” such as Free Europe, in publications such as The New York Times and various Spanish newspapers, and at a press conference in Detroit in 1966. In June 1959, Simeon had been asked whether he intended ever to return to Bulgaria, and had answered with an emphatic “Yes.” In February 1963, a Spanish newspaper had asked him if he thought there was a real chance of his returning to the motherland, to which he replied: “I am optimistic, but I don’t harbour any illusions.”
   
The Operation Parasites files also contained some less serious details. According to reports on February 13th, 1958, Simeon II had sent a telegram to the Bulgarian national basketball team, wishing them luck. An agent had added that, “Our countrymen subsequently defeated the Spaniards in Madrid”. On the 27th of April the King’s sister, Maria Luiza Borisova Ferdinandova, was officially struck off the list of Operation Parasites targets, and was also removed from the records of the 6th Bureau of the State Security Services. After lengthy operations, agents had ascertained that “the subject does not sustain relationships with anyone on Bulgarian territory, there is no information that she has any interest in enemy emigrants, and her behaviour cannot be considered in any way dangerous.” But the spying on Simeon continued. In January 1966, he held a press conference in America. According to agents who were in the crowd, the King conceded that Bulgaria had achieved indisputable success. But he insisted that the liberty-loving Bulgarian people would not sit quietly under an imposed dictatorship, and that it would not be long before they rid themselves of it. This would not be achieved through a coup, or a sudden revolution, but by a gradual process of evolution.

Similar statements were reported in other State Security documents. “Simeon has made many trips to different countries and continents,” wrote one agent. “He has mainly chosen countries whose systems of government interest him, and which have achieved significant social reform, as he himself has said. He has tried to learn about the mechanisms which contributed to these processes, and to observe the pros and cons of the various reforms and their effects on the countries in question.” One report described a lecture on “The Origin and Foundation of the Bulgarian State” that Simeon had given in the Institute of Eastern Nations, Munich, at the end of the sixties. He had also spoken on the Bulgarian economy to emigrants in Heidelberg: “With the new system of business planning and guidance, the Bulgarian economy will be impeded for 3-4 years.” But not a single agent was able to report on the King making any statements against Bulgaria or its rulers, and because of this, with the chief of the 6th Bureau announcing, on 4th September 1967, that they had “no evidence of hostile activity on the part of the subjects”, the Operation Parasites files were closed.
   
In January 1997, several days after the initial publication in 24 Hours Daily of my sensational revelations about the existence - and the machinery - of the spying operation against King Simeon, I answered the phone in the editor’s office, and once again heard a strange man’s voice. “I just wanted to tell you that you’ve been misled. It isn’t true that the file on Simeon was closed in ’68; it was just transferred to the 1st Bureau. They carried on watching his every move.” The man refused to tell me his source, but assured me, “You’ll find documentary evidence in the Intelligence archives.”

I did exactly what I had done before, and wrote a letter asking for the relevant papers but then the Privacy law was adopted and the personal files could not be read without prior permission of the people described in them. However years later I found some sources – former intelligence officers who admitted that throughout his exile from Bulgaria, the King had been spied on almost everywhere he went during his trips abroad, including those to Africa and Asia. Even Giovanna, the Queen Mother, had been spied on when she went to Portugal. Almost all the Bulgarian embassies in Africa, Asia and several Arab states, had at some point been required to report on his activities. They had to report to the so-called “Center”, using coded telegrams, on what he had done, where he had been and what he had said.

“There was nothing suspicious: ordinary meetings and conversations, but nothing against Bulgaria,” remembered one spy, 30 years later. Someone else recalled how the King had been tailed on a trip to an African country. The spy had followed Simeon from the airport to his hotel. There the spy had tried to remain undetected, only to have his plan ruined by the boy at reception, who told the King that there were other Bulgarians staying at the hotel. “Are there really? How interesting,” said the King, before expressing, with his usual courtesy, his desire to be introduced to them. Unfortunately he never got the chance, as that evening, they had vanished.
   
One of the agents I spoke to admitted that, to this day, he still had his own personal archive of photographs of Giovanna’s car, parked in front of her house in Eustoril - Portugal. He had taken the pictures posing as a tourist, but his real mission had been to collect information on the lifestyle of the Queen Mother, and which Bulgarians she was in touch with. But the agent would not reveal whether he had ever sent his photographs and findings to Sofia.
   
The story could end here. But I know it is unfinished – until the time when the King himself eventually gives permission for his file to be read. I am quite certain this will never happen.  Kings are above the ordinary life.  They follow a golden rule - never complain, never explain.



Alexenia Dimitrova is the author of "The Iron Fist" and "The War of the Spies".  She writes investigative journalism articles for 24 Hours Daily in Sofia, Bulgaria, and is known globally as an expert in Cold War cases and Iron Curtain Secret Service Files.

 


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